Rising population contributes to Utah’s air pollution, but air quality is improving over the long term

Nov 30, 2023, 6:17 PM | Updated: 6:19 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Experts say that with Utah’s population growing and more people adding to air quality problems, we should all do our part to improve our air.

Utahns’ emission-producing habits have returned to their pre-pandemic levels, and Utah’s pollution problem was on display Thursday, with Utah County seeing the worst air quality in the state. Air Quality in Utah County was at the orange level, making it unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Still, this kind of pollution is not unusual for November, and snow on the valley floors worsens inversions.

At the same time, Utah’s overall air pollution problems are going down and are significantly better than they were ten years ago.

That’s thanks to a number of larger pollution contributors that have been cut back over time: big polluters like factories, more efficient vehicles, and even better consumer products like ovens and nail polish have made Utah’s overall air quality better.

Still, everyone needs to be aware of how they add to the problem.

Bryce Bird, director of the Air Quality Division at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, weighed in on the issue.

“Our per capita emissions are going down,” Bird explained. “So even though we’re adding more population, the past strategies — the improvements in vehicle technologies, those improvements again in large industrial sources — have been effective. But those could be overwhelmed over time.”

At the same time, Bird said people should all take precautions any time there are air quality issues like those seen Thursday, even if they’re not considered part of a sensitive or at-risk group.

Bird explained anytime the pollution gets out of the green (or good) level, everyone should take precautions. That means bringing workouts inside, carpooling, using public transit, working from home, or whatever you can do to cut back on emissions.

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Rising population contributes to Utah’s air pollution, but air quality is improving over the long term